SOME THOUGHTS ON IMPROVING THE HUMAN CONDITION
FROM A CLASS AND HISTORICAL MATERIALIST PERSPECTIVE
New York Metropolitan Humanist Society Nov.26, 2002
I want to examine some economic, ideological and political issues that
either ignored or inadequately understood by many in the broad progressive
and Left movements.
The first is anti-communism, particularly in a liberal or Left disguise.
maintain that the primary global contradiction is still between
capitalism/imperialism and socialism however decimated at present.
in contrast to a number of currents on the Left such as—neo-marxist,
left and social democratic—that see the main contradictions in national
struggles and conflicts and therefore not international in scope.
these movements seem to have at least one fundamental premise in common;
belief that “orthodox” or “traditional” Marxism is outmoded and no
the best guide for struggle and the eventual achievement of socialism.
seek, for instance to discredit those who are in solidarity with Socialist
Cuba which represents I believe a moral beacon and alternative to a
corporate system which has led to war and fascism.
This is not a new phenomenon- Some revisionist predecessors go back
Frankfurt School of Sociology of the 20’s and 30’s that attempted to
synthesize Marx and Freud, (whom Bertold Brecht called the intellectual
pimps for bourgeoisie), to the Italian Phenomenological School of Marxism
the Praxis group in Yugoslavia, the Marxists-Humanists of Poland to
called Euro-communism of the 70’s. In the guise of innovating
socialist movements they reject many of Marxism’s basic principles
In the past decade groups such as the Committees of Correspondence have
traveled down this revisionist road. As the German Communist
Steigerwald eloquently showed in his Anti-Communist Myths in Left
that it is impossible to be anti-imperialist, anti-racist or progressive
when one buys into anti-communism for it is what Marx called an antagonistic
In a book review by Laura Secor (NYT 11/3) of David Reif’s
in Crisis, she refers to the author’s use of the term “humanitarian
neutrality”which undergirds the politics of aid which allegedly is
alleviate suffering in the aftermath of serious conflicts. Thus
we see a
kind of moral warrant for non-intervention in Bosnia, but for intervention
in Kosovo and for the war in Afghanistan. I am reminded of the
who, over 200 years before Columbus, wrote that “the hottest places
are reserved for those, who in times of great moral crisis maintain
The next question is one of institutionalized racism and its relation
class. Recognizing the dialectical interaction of class and race,
upgraded Marx’ famous quotation to Workers and Oppressed People Unite.
folks who were influenced by libertarian and anarchistic thinking prevalent
in the 60’s, accuse us “hardliners”of rhetoric and sloganeering.
look at this. While we remember W.E. B. Dubois’ famous statement
problem of the 20th century is that of color, we should be reminded
1953 DuBois placed slavery and exploitation within the context of the
capitalist mode of production. He later made it clear in his
Reconstruction that behind the problem of race and color “lies the
problem which both obscures and implements it” referring to the profit
system and pointing to the few who live in comfort and luxury “even
price of this is poverty, ignorance and disease of the majority of
We see an inadequate analysis of race for instance impacting past
independent political movements such as the Peace and Freedom Party
60’s and the National Committee for Independent Political Action in
s. The question of Black Liberation was viewed as a “special
rather than central to class struggles. Besides all of the common
effects of racism in employment, housing, health care and other areas
believe the virus of racism also infects those for instance who equate
desperate form of violence of suicide bombers with the US financed
state sponsored terrorism and their crimes against humanity.
Many liberals and those who consider themselves progressive, particularly
among Jewish people also tend to forget or do not want to know that
is not an ethnic or cultural concept but a political ideology fueled
racism that concludes that Jews are in fact “Chosen” while the “Others”
lesser. This is not different in kind to the Nazi labeling of
Untermenschen or a kind of sub species. This perception
Israeli-Palestinian conflict frequently leads to what I call the Israel
Alles syndrome. If this sounds rhetorical I remind you that just
the Chicago chapter of the Zionist Organization of America had as their
honored guest in a Salute to Israel dinner none other than the icon
Christian Right, Pat Robertson.
A few comments on Terrorism. And by the way my living 5
ground zero does not give me any special credentials. Here again
analysis in an historical context is necessary. Some significant
Nearly half of the largest companies and banks in the world are U.S.
institutions and the world market is divided among 238 leading U.S.
European multi-national enterprises. The U. S. has about 50%
of the world’s
wealth with only 6.3% of the population. As sociologist James
notes that these facts “define the imperial nature of the world economy
characterized by control of markets, pillaging of raw materials and
labor they exploit.”
My fundamental premise is that U.S. imperialist policies especially
past 25 years are the root causes of terrorism worldwide. First
the red devil, then the drug devil and now the terrorist devil.
of US foreign policy will show that both wings of the representatives
Capital in the White House manufactured crises in order to justify
>From the bombing of the battleship Maine in the war of Spain and Cuba,
Lyndon Johnson’s Tonkin Gulf Resolution to the alleged destruction
incubators in Kuwait. The current situation exhibits a sharpening
contradictions within capitalism both economic and political.
The U.S. is
in a crisis that affects the largest transnational corporations which
according to Petras affects “the state in its relation to internal
and external belligerence.”
In 1980 Jimmy Carter sent National Security Advisor Brezinski to the
Pakistan-Afghan border to make sure Bin Laden’s comrades had adequate
Intelligence and Stinger missiles because we didn’t like the idea of
support for the progressive and secular Najibullah regime in Kabul
overthrew hundreds of years of a feudal oligarchy. Whatever
stuff Sadaam Hussein has we can thank US imperialism when it thought
bigger devil was in Teheran. The US weapon of mass destruction
sanctions and which are responsible for the deaths over 150,000 Iraqi
children is not sufficient or quick enough for the Homeland Axis of
Washington. We want to control the second largest oil deposits
of Iraq in
order to protect the need of the corporate rulers to enhance capital
accumulation. Imperialism will use the Yemen Precedent of 1990
cast the only NO vote for a war called Desert Storm. The US immediately
off $70 million in aid to the poorest country in the Arab world.
For the first time preemptive strike and regime change was declared
“right” of US imperialism as was “Manifest Destiny” of an earlier
colonialism. As Phyllis Bennis, author of Private Planet observed
capitalist society is “inextricably linked with democracy, efficiency
openness.” But the truth is that the reality of western power
ruinous effects on the victims of Africa, Asia and Latin America as
at home in which as Bennis notes “the beneficiaries of a
corporate system which is built on plunder, poverty, environmental
destruction and injustice.”
Finally some activists involved in various struggles continue to feed
illusions that the Democratic Party or a front such as the Working
Party can be part of a people’s solution. They mistakenly advocate
outside –inside strategy. This approach continued to feed the
the Donkey Party could be “reformed” or “independent.” Since
of the so called new left we find a new twist; the search for a hybrid
neither capitalist nor socialist. It was fashionable in
some Left currents
to use code words to mask their anti-Sovietism such as pluralism and
democratization and since 1990 the cutting edge word is Stalinism.
called Universal human values have replaced class struggle. This notion
echoes the counter revolutionary new thinking coined in 1988 by then
Foreign Minister Kozyrev called the “Convergence Theory” in which capitalism
and socialism were allegedly becoming more and more like each other.
Here in the belly of the beast we require an independent political
informed with the consciousness of the common corporate enemy which
unites all of the crucial issues. The People’s Resistance from Seattle
Genoa pointed in that direction. Such a Movement is indispensable
confront the creeping fascism of a Patriot Act, higher unemployment,
homelessness , cuts in services, inadequate health care, poverty and
functional illiteracy to name a few benefits of the market economy.
believe that a cutting edge struggle is the freedom of our political
prisoners not only the better known cases of Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard
Peltier, but also the Angola3 as well as the Puerto Rican freedom fighters
still behind bars and the recently incarcerated Cuban Five who were
US to obtain information to better combat the real terrorists and Cuban
Mafia in Miami.
Marx in his German Ideology said the ideas of the ruling class
every epoch the ruling ideas; the class which is the ruling MATERIAL
of society, is at the same time its ruling INTELLECTUAL force.
philosophers have only contemplated the world. It is time to
Indeed it is. Thank You.